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The racial bias of the SAT

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I think a lot of people engaged in debates about standardized testing fail to understand just how stark the racial disparities in SAT scores are:

Critics also say the tests are too easily gamed by students who can pay thousands of dollars for private coaching and test prep. Carol Christ, the chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, has long called for a move away from standardized testing for admissions. She cited the recent college admissions bribery scandal as a case in point, calling the episode “grotesque.”

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit pending against the University of California say use of the tests build on existing disparities. According to the College Board, which administers the SAT, 55 percent of Asian-American test takers and 45 percent of white test takers scored a 1200 or higher on the SAT in 2019. For Hispanic and black students, those numbers were 12 percent and 9 percent.

Proponents of a change say it is fairer to judge students by other measures, such as teacher recommendations. Some studies have suggested that high school grades better measure a student’s likelihood of graduation and cumulative performance in college.

And some school officials say the tests are superfluous. California’s community college chancellor, Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who is also a University of California regent, reminded the board this week that the university already enrolls tens of thousands of transfer students who are not required to take any standardized admission tests.

The idea that relying on other data would produce less egalitarian results is just not remotely credible. The point about transfer students is a good one too.

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